Friday, March 02, 2001

In praise of obstinacy (part II):

Obstinacy defines entrepreneurship. This may come as a shock to some, but until very recently (and probably again in the future), a career in entrepreneurship was viewed with the same welcoming attitude as having your children run off to join the circus. Entrepreneurs were seen as starry-eyed dreamers, stubborn fools, or both. The smart money was on becoming a doctor, lawyer, or, if you were really wild, and investment banker. Generally, an entrepreneur became such because he or she couldn't work for someone else.

The past few years witnessed the elevation of the entrepreneur to demigod status, making it attractive to the best and brightest, who, being pretty sharp, gravitate to whatever promises the most money, prestige, and sexual appeal. This meant that a lot of otherwise mainstream individuals started companies, hoping to get rich quick.

These new-look entrepreneurs did what they always had done to succeed: follow the rules, and execute to the letter. When VCs said to "get big fast," they booked television campaigns and gave away products. When magazines emphasized the importance of hype, they committed the equivalent of 10X revenues to a PR campaign. And when the tide turned, they had nowhere to go--except back to whatever conventional wisdom dictated was the best bet. Companies like Goldman Sachs that couldn't beg a second-tier MBA to join them two years ago now have their pick of Harvard and Stanford MBAs.

The true entrepreneurs are obstinate to the point of stupidity. They doggedly find ways to keep their companies alive, and keep fighting and scratching for every last dollar. And those entrepreneurs will be around and thriving, long after the new-look entrepreneurs and their $50 million venture rounds have gone the way of the velociraptor.

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